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Blogs and blogging Publishing Social Web

The blog helped build the Web, not break it

I read some wonderful ideas about personal sites as cultivated digital gardens over the weekend (here, here, here, and here), and one post that was linked to in one of these posts caught my attention. It was Amy Hoy’s post titled “Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web“.

We built every new page by hand. When we had more than one web page, we built the navigation by hand. We managed our Table of Contents by hand. We broke out our calculators to code boundaries for our image maps. We talked unironically about “hyperlinks.”

Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web

I remember those early days of the public Web, with the myriad flashing banners, and GIFs all over the place. It wasn’t quite as romantic back then, hacking together sites with the available HTML elements, and trying not to go too crazy with the flashy graphics.

People built sites like that because that was pretty much the only way to do it. It wasn’t easy to build a site. Domains were freakishly expensive, bandwidth was terrible by today’s standards, and building some sort of social fabric for the Web back then was daunting. As Amy explained –

The early web itself, of course, was pretty exclusive: first, you had to be online, then you had to know HTML, and that wasn’t enough, you also had to have a hosting account, and know how to use it. There was no royal road. Each would-be Netizen had to bushwhack their own path.

Blogs changed all of that, and gave more people a much easier way to build their own space on the Web. Sure, many looked pretty similar because templates and themes were a little sparse, but these were spaces that non-coders could create (mostly), and make their own.

Sure, it’s fun to get your hands dirty with HTML, CSS, and other cool Web tools (and there are remarkable sites built on open standards, and that don’t run on CMSes like WordPress), but that’s not a viable option for millions of people who are online today.

No, the blog didn’t break the Web, it changed the Web. It turned the Web into a platform for just about everyone with a smartish device, and a decent Internet connection.

Not all the content on the modern Web is good. There’s plenty of trashy content out there. There’s even more wonderful content that people invest so much effort, creativity, and passion into.

There are no more quirky homepages.

There are no more amateur research librarians.

All thanks to a quirky bit of software produced to alleviate the pain of a tiny subset of a very small audience.

That’s not cool at all.

I disagree. The Web that blogs made possible is not what Hoy describes as the “old web, the cool web, the weird web, the hand-organized web”. It’s much more than that. It’s inspiring.


Disclosure

I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, and home of many incredible WordPress developers. I wrote this post using the block editor that I believe is borderline revolutionary.

I’ve also been blogging (erratically) for more than 16 years. So, yes, I’m biased towards blogs.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing

Still working on a more convenient publishing workflow on mobile

My publishing workflow for my site on desktop is convenient enough. I’d love to be able to share on mobile as conveniently. I’m just not there yet. That’s probably why this quote resonates with me:

This is important. I need to enjoy the workflow and publishing experience. For me, it’s technical and I want to have complete control. I don’t want to publish on a platform like medium and I actually enjoy some of the hacking around of having control of my own site.

🖋 Stop Giving af and Start Writing More

It certainly helps to have the block editor in the mobile WordPress.com app. The block editor, generally, makes publishing easier on WordPress sites.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing

It makes no difference

This quote echoes my inner musings about my blog lately (as much as I love having my own space on the Web):

Seriously, who cares when anything on my site got posted. For the vast majority of things I’m writing it makes absolutely no difference what-so-ever.

 My blog is a digital garden, not a blog

Leaving that aside, I still feel like I want to post more stuff on my site. I come across stuff that I want to share all the time.

I just don’t share as much because it feels like a lot of work to share a video, or random link though a blog post with a title, taxonomy, formatting, and stuff.

I also don’t want to just tweet stuff into the social void either.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Design Policy issues Publishing Social Web Web/Tech

Make your Web

I enjoyed Tantek Çelik‘s recent talk at beyond tellerrand // DÜSSELDORF 2019. If you’re interested in the IndieWeb, or just curious why having a personal site is still so important, make yourself a beverage and enjoy:

Featured image: IndieWebCamp Berlin 2018 | Day 1 by tollwerk GmbH, licensed CC BY NC SA 2.0

Categories
Applications Publishing Useful stuff

Silence is not necessarily golden for Evernote

I’ve been an Evernote user for well over a decade, and I used it daily until a couple years ago. I have almost 29,000 notes (a fair number of these notes are automatically captured using IFTTT workflows).

In recent years, Evernote has been pretty quiet on its blog, and while it’s released updates to the app, I haven’t felt like this is a dynamic company, constantly working to evolve it’s product. This has been a little disconcerting, as I have a lot of data in Evernote that I have been storing there intentionally.

At the moment, there isn’t another service like Evernote that uses this notes and notebook model to capture different content types into a pretty flexible reference system. I use Google Drive to store a lot of my stuff too, but it doesn’t feel as fluid to me.

I’ve also been experimenting with a private WordPress.com site too. I think this option is pretty close to Evernote, and even has some benefits that Evernote lacks because WordPress uses web technology (it is a publishing platform after all), so it opens the door to much richer content embeds, and formatting.

Still, short of an importer from Evernote to WordPress, or another suitable alternative, I’ve stuck with Evernote. It’s the simplest solution, even if Evernote becomes a historical reference service for me.

That being said, it was encouraging to see this video from Evernote’s current CEO about how they’ll be giving us insights into what’s happening behind the scenes, and what they’re working on:

I don’t know what lies ahead for Evernote. My Premium subscription is up for renewal next month, and I’m pretty sure I’ll renew, at least for another year. For now, though, I’m looking forward to see what they have in the pipeline. It might just tempt me back into more regular use.

Categories
Publishing Social Web Web/Tech

Twitter’s conversational problem is that it’s not suited to have one

Recode’s article titled “How hard is it to have a conversation on Twitter? So hard even the CEO can’t do it.” highlights a perennial challenge on Twitter: having a coherent conversation about pretty much anything –

There simply wasn’t enough room to have the kind of nuanced conversation the subject requires. It was symbolic of Twitter’s broader problem: It’s almost impossible to have a smart, healthy argument on Twitter because no one has the space needed to share their thoughts.

Anyone remember Friendfeed? Actually, perhaps a more interesting solution could have been Google Wave.

Neither of these options are around any longer, and their successors don’t have the traction or appeal for this sort of use case.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Creative expression Publishing

My blog is 14 years old, today, and it’s a big day for blogging

Today is a Big DayTM For Blogging, but probably only for me. Today is this blog’s 14th birthday! On 6 December 2004, I wrote my first post on this WordPress blog:

Where this chapter all began …

It was originally at a different domain, and has evolved over the last 14 years. I probably have a fair share of somewhat trashy posts, especially from my blog’s earlier years, and I’ve suffered some losses along the way due to rushed or poorly managed migrations from one server to another.

Still, after 14 years, I’m still blogging, albeit it somewhat erratically. Here’s the current state of my blog:

This year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to blogging. My day job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is focused on helping our customers build, maintain, and grow their WordPress.com sites. I deal with issues ranging from domain configurations, to custom CSS to tweak theme designs, to a little HTML to help structure page content better, to more involved WooCommerce store configurations, and a lot of troubleshooting in between.

Despite spending all that time focused on our customer’s sites, I’ve only published 148 blog posts of my own in 2018 (including this one). I seem to have surges of activity when I’m not working, or when I have something short to share using the WordPress.com Android app.

Regardless of how much I’ve shared this year, I’m really glad that I have this place of my own on the Web, wherever it may be from time to time. I strongly believe in the importance of having your own space on the Web that you own, and control (as much as you can when it comes to other people’s servers).

This is my home on the Web, weird content choices and all. Thank you for being part of it.

Categories
Blogs and blogging People Publishing

On Manton Reece’s thoughts about WordPress, and the new Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg)

I just read Manton Reece’s thoughts about the new WordPress Editor (formerly known as Gutenberg), and I don’t really agree:

As I test Gutenberg, I keep coming back to one question: is it good for blogging? The goal with Micro.blog is to make blogging easier so that more people will have their own site instead of delegating their web identity to a social network. Gutenberg is more flexible than today’s WordPress, but it’s also more complex for someone who just wants to type in a few sentences and hit publish.

The new editor is available to both WordPress.com and self-hosted sites ahead of the WordPress 5.0 release. I’ve been using it on this site for a couple weeks, and in a couple test sites so I can anticipate or troubleshoot issues that our users may encounter.

I think there’s some merit in Reece’s perception of Gutenberg. I also think I fall more into the category of bloggers who like to open a simple editor and start typing into a text box.

A lot of WordPress users don’t want this simpler experience. I come across many people who want a very visual editor where you can create pretty dynamic layouts on the fly.

The new editor may be more for those people, but it can work pretty well for someone who wants to open a blank editor window and start typing, too.

Put another way, as WordPress matures I think it moves further away from the ideal blogging interface for someone who wants to write every day. Even as we add features to Micro.blog — domain names, themes, full-length posts, photos, podcasting — the core platform will always be rooted in the simple idea of a text box and a timeline.

Granted I’m a little biased because I work for Automattic, and I believe in what we’re doing. At the same time, I was a blogger long before I joined this company, and WordPress has been synonymous with “blogging” for me for almost 14 years.

I’m still deciding whether the new WordPress Editor is going to be the default on my personal site. It’s still early days for Gutenberg, and I think it has an exciting future.

That said, I like my simpler text windows, Markdown, and monospace fonts when I write (thank goodness for MarsEdit). Not everyone does, and WordPress is still flexible enough to accommodate almost all of us.

(Now, if I could just configure this blog to play nicely with all its IndieWeb cousins again, that would be great.)